The return of the muffler man

New Delhi | Updated on February 11, 2020

Kejriwal circumvents Hindutva and reinvents himself as the new-age welfarist to win a landslide for the third time

Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘politics of work’ model with education/health/transport/power thrust on Tuesday won him a third consecutive term in Delhi where the BJP had mounted a strident campaign around the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in Shaheen Bagh.

“It is a triumph of development over hatred,” said an AAP MP and campaign strategist in the party’s victory celebrations. Kejriwal’s own candidature, strategic use of Hindu religious terminology to dent the BJP’s pitch of Delhi elections being an “India-versus-Pakistan match” and showcasing of the party’s work especially in education, health sector and regulating electricity and water bills won the party a whopping 62 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly. AAP’s vote share went up to 53.60 per cent from just over 18 per cent in the Lok Sabha polls where it had failed to win a single seat in Delhi.


While jubilant AAP supporters put up posters saying it is Kejriwal-versus-Modi in 2024, Kejriwal himself has kept his national ambitions in check as he presided over a highly localised campaign, focusing entirely on his performance as Delhi CM with the stated aim of turning the Capital into a ‘world-class city’. He announced in the beginning of the campaign that he will run a positive campaign fought on the basis of his government’s development work in the last five years.

His main poll planks were schemes such as free bus travel for women in DTC buses, free 200 units of electricity, installation of 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras and free 20,000 litres of water. Along with his Deputy, Manish Sisodia who faced a very tough contest in Patpargunj and barely scraped through with just over 3000 votes and Atishi Marlena, the newly-elected MLA from Kalkaji, Kejriwal has given a decisive push to the education sector. Delhi spends over 23 per cent of its Budget on education, the highest in the country, and has boasted of improved infrastructure and quality of school education in the last five years.

The BJP, in contrast, ran a highly-charged campaign on ideological issues – Article 370, Ramjanmabhoomi and CAA – while pushing 240 MPs, 11 CMs and all top Cabinet ministers into the campaign. Unlike in 2015, when the BJP had projected the present Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi as the party’s CM candidate, the party did not field any known candidate against Kejriwal this time. “AAP asks for vote for Kejriwal. BJP says give the vote to Amit Shah who will decide. They want you to give him a blank cheque to sign,” said Kejriwal, cashing on the BJP’s weakness in the run-up to the polls.

Besides pushing its immense volunteer force to counter the BJP’s formidable organisational muscle during the elections, AAP also carefully circumvented any debate on the Hindutva issues. While Kejriwal himself refused to visit or support Shaheen Bagh, he simultaneously refused to articulate a contrarian view on core Hindutva issues.

Finally, it was also the reinvention of Kejriwal from a perennial protester against the Centre and his almost daily skirmishes with the BJP’s central leadership to a sober, non-confrontationist administrator that seemed to have won the voter all over again.

Published on February 11, 2020

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